Practice Watch

Your Practice Advisor

Felicia S. Folk, the Law Society's Practice Advisor, is available to discuss your practice concerns. All communications between Ms. Folk and lawyers are strictly confidential, except in cases of trust funds shortages.

You are invited to call her at (604) 669-2533 or toll-free in B.C. 1-800-903-5300 at any time, or write to her at the Law Society office.

Lawyers as lobbyists

The Lobbyists Registration Act passed Third Reading on August 21, 2001 in the B.C. Legislature, and will come into force by regulation. The Act provides that persons in certain designated categories who deal with the Government of B.C. must register with government and disclose information about themselves and their clients or employers.

Anyone who is paid to attempt to influence government policy, or the awarding of contracts, will generally be considered a lobbyist and will be required to register for lobbying activity.

Under the Act, a "consultant lobbyist" is an individual who, for payment, undertakes to lobby on behalf of a client. An "in-house lobbyist" is an individual who is employed by a person or organization and a significant part of whose duties is to lobby on behalf of the employer. Both these definitions may include lawyers.

Lawyers in private practice and in-house counsel carrying out certain tasks may be defined as lobbyists under the Act. Every lawyer should review the provisions of the Act to determine whether it is necessary to register as a lobbyist before undertaking any communication with the Government of British Columbia.

A "consultant lobbyist" and an "in-house lobbyist" must register under the provincial legislation if they are paid to communicate with a public office holder in an attempt to influence any legislative proposal, bill, resolution, regulation, order-in-council, program or policy of the government, or the awarding of any contract or financial benefit by or on behalf of the government. Consultant lobbyists must also register if they are paid to arrange a meeting between a public office holder and any other person.

Under the Act, "public office holder" includes, not only a Member of the Legislative Assembly and any person on that Member's staff, but also any officer or employee of the government, any appointee by order-in-council or minister and any officer, director or employee of a government corporation. Judges and justices of the peace are excluded.

"Organization" is very broadly defined and includes a professional organization and a society.

The publicly accessible lobbyists registry will be run through the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

It is not yet known when the Act will come into force.

Out-of-province no-fault insurance benefits

The Alberta Court of Appeal ruled in April, 2001 that, if a motor vehicle accident occurs in B.C., the Alberta insurer must pay no-fault benefits to the higher B.C. limits, regardless of where any lawsuit is brought. In Lindblom v. Wawanesa Insurance [2001] A.J. No. 548, the Court departed from earlier case law and interpreted Alberta's Insurance Act to mean that the applicable insurance limit is the greater of two limits: the limit where the policy was issued or the limit where the accident occurred.

Associate leaving a firm

When an associate leaves a firm, there are frequently discussions within the firm about the difficulties ahead - clients choosing to leave with the associate, disruption to the firm and financial arrangements that will have to be made with the associate and with the clients. There are often discussions about the form of letter that the associate and the firm will write to the clients. Sometimes the firm and the associate will agree to send, virtually unchanged, the sample letter set out in Appendix 4 of Professional Conduct Handbook.

But it would be prudent for the firm to carry out a review of the files handled by the associate before sending letters to clients. Otherwise the firm may discover, after a client chooses to remain with the firm, that the file is not one the firm wishes to handle or is not able to handle well. The firm may then find itself constrained by the Chapter 10 requirements on withdrawing from files. In that circumstance, there may well be three unhappy parties - the firm, the associate and the client, who may complain about both.

If an associate is planning to leave your firm, take the opportunity to review the files for which the associate was the responsible lawyer and determine as early as possible whether or not those files are a good fit for the firm, or whether the firm's practice has evolved in such a way that the client would be better served by the associate or possibly by referral to another firm.